Breastfeeding Champions

The Baby-Friendly USA designation honors hospitals that offer optimum care for newborn feeding and mother-baby bonding. To be named a Baby-Friendly hospital, a facility must demonstrate that it uses the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as explained by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Providence Hospital, a member of Ascension, recently became only the second facility in the Washington, D.C., area to be named Baby-Friendly. Gladys Desselle, RN, MHA, CBC, senior director of maternal and infant health remarked, “It’s been very rewarding given that we are a small community hospital without the resources of a big teaching hospital.”

In the United States, only 336 hospitals and birthing centers have earned the Baby-Friendly designation.


Breast is Best
Educating pregnant woman about the benefits of breastfeeding is at the center of the program. Nurses are pivotal in that education, since they spend the most time with patients. They share messages throughout the health system’s clinics to promote breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding provides benefits to both mother and infant. Reduced rates of cancer and diabetes have been recorded among mothers who breastfeed. Breastfeeding also helps them lose their postpartum weight quicker. Among children who were breastfed, researchers have documented lower rates of childhood obesity.

“These are common, chronic problems in our community,” noted Desselle. “The Baby-Friendly program is consistent with what Providence is about as a community hospital.”

Although breast may be best, the nurses at Providence are not dogmatic in their quest. “We will honor any mother’s decision to bottle feed,” Desselle explained. “If a mother chooses to formula-feed, we as nurses must educate the mom on how to prepare the formula and how often and how much to feed the baby.”

That does come at a price to the hospital. To be named Baby-Friendly, Providence had to agree not to accept any promotional materials from formula companies-even free formula itself-so the hospital must fund all formula purchases.


SEE ALSO: Enhancing Breastfeeding Education

Training Nurses
Bringing the staff up to speed on the Baby-Friendly program was the second part of the journey to receiving the designation. The 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding were posted around the facility. Baby-Friendly USA requires 15 hours of online training and 5 hours of hands-on training for nurses.

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Providence Hospital maternal and infant health nurses championed breastfeeding. “The nurses were very proud of their accomplishments,” said DeselleKyle KielinsKI thanks to Providence Hospital.

“We did role playing and different exercises to help the nurses hard-wire the processes,” Desselle explained.

Part of the designation process was a site visit by Baby-Friendly USA, whose team checked to make sure the 10 steps were implemented. Representatives interviewed nursing staff about their training and interviewed new mothers, asking, “What kind of breastfeeding assistance did you receive and when?” The program calls for nurses to help mothers try to breastfeed within an hour of birth.


Healthy Outcomes
Promoting healthy babies and mothers does not stop at the hospitsl, and patients are provided with electronic breast pumps to help them continue nursing after they are home. In addition, programs at Providence Hospital’s Center for Perinatal Advocacy promote better outcomes for infant mortality. The center works with the D.C. Department of Transportation to install car seats and offers a subsidized purchase program for parents.

“Nurses at Providence are looking at all the needs of the mother and the infant and ensuring they promote the healthiest outcomes,” Desselle said.


Danielle Bullen is a staff writer. Contact her at

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